'Govt helpline received 3,37,556 calls regarding mental health issues till Feb 27'
New Delhi: Toll-free helpline 080-4611 0007 launched by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to address mental health issues received 3,37,556 calls till February 27 and provided 53,081 individuals with specific assistance, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey informed the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The NIMHANS, Bengaluru, had also set up an exclusive isolation ward for people with mental illness and neurological problems who developed COVID-19 infection, Choubey said in a written reply.
The ward was set up on July 13, 2020 and it served 72 patients till February 26, 2021. Whenever COVID-19 severity worsened, they were referred to appropriate designated COVID-19 hospitals, he said.
Choubey was responding to a question on the number of helplines that were set up by the government between April 1, 2020 and September 1, 2020 to provide counselling/assistance to persons undergoing severe mental strain as a fall out of the pandemic and lockdown.
The Centre for Psychosocial Support in Disaster Management, NIMHANS, Ministry of Health had initiated a nationwide toll free 24x7 helpline (080-4611 0007) on March 29, 2020 to address the mental health and psychosocial concern of the public during pandemic and lockdown.
"As on 27 February 2021, this helpline has received 3,37,556 calls and provided 53,081 individuals with specific assistance/ interventions," the minister said.
The other two central mental health institutions -- Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health (LGBRIMH), Tezpur and Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP), Ranchi -- are now also on-board to extend such services in regional/ local languages.
In addition, LGBRIMH, Tezpur has also started two more helplines for providing assistance in therapeutic counselling and psychotherapy.
A Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline KIRAN (1800-500-0019) has been launched by the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment.
This toll-free helpline in 13 languages is operational 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The helpline is served by 660 clinical / rehabilitation psychologists and 668 psychiatrists, Choubey said.
The objectives of the helpline are early screening; first aid; psychological support; distress management; mental well-being; preventing deviant behaviors; psychological crisis management and referral to mental health experts.
On whether provisions have been made to make these helplines accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Choubey said no provisions have been made to the helpline accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
However, various guidelines, advisories and advocacy material on mental health issues have been developed for different segments of the society, which may be accessed on the Ministry of Health website under Behavioural Health Psychosocial helpline (https://www.mohfw.gov.in/).
Institutions like All India Institute of Speech and Hearing used social media platforms during the COVID pandemic to provide counselling to the caregivers of children with communication disorders such as hard of hearing, intellectual disorder, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities, the minister said. Videos on counselling and other issues were also uploaded on social media by the faculties, he said in the written reply.